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Bruno Michel "Blanche" Brut Champagne $34.99One of our best non-vintage Champagnes, this organically grown blend of half each Chardonnay and Meunier comes entirely from Bruno Michel's estate. It has been aged for six years on the lees and shows wonderful natural toasty quality as well as incredible vibrance! This was the big hit of our most recent staff Champagne tasting and we think you will love it too.

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We host regular weekly and Saturday wine tastings in each K&L location.

For the complete calendar, including lineups and additional details related to our events, visit our K&L Local Events on KLWines.com or follow us on Facebook.  

 

Free Spirits Tastings at K&L! Now that we have our license for spirits tastings in Redwood City and San Francisco, we’re excited to host regular free spirits tastings in those locations.  Check the Spirits Journal for an updated tasting schedule.

All tastings will feature different products from the Spirits Department and take place on Wednesdays in Redwood City and San Francisco. Visit our events page on Facebook or the K&L Spirits Journal for more information.

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Entries in tasting (10)

Friday
Jul052013

Champagne Friday: To the Winner Goes the Spoils

 

By: Chiara Shannon| Champagne Lover and Director of the K&L Personal Sommelier Service

K&L staff members have great fortune to taste a lot of wine and compare notes with leading experts in the the business on a routine basis. We participate in weekly staff tastings hosted by our respective buyers, and rare is the day when assorted wines aren't opened in the tasting room for the purpose of staff education. Seriously! Listen in on a conversation between two K&L staff members discussing a wine, beer, or spirit at any given time, and you will come away reaffirmed that you are shopping at the right place, assisted by folks who know their stuff. I am constantly humbled by the depths of knowledge and experience of the collective K&L palate.

Which is why I am inspired to write this week's Champagne Friday. You see, in the latest round of the K&L Staff Blind Tasting Competition (although tasting roulette is more like it), I miraculously won. The prize? My all time favorite Champagne, Amaury Coutelas "Cuvee 1809" Brut Champagne ($59.99) Here are my notes from my first tasting of this marvelous Champagne:

This is incredible Champagne, and very unique. Drawing on winemaking techniques of the 19th century, it was fermented in barrel (no malo), aged for 8+ years on the lees in bottles sealed with corks, manually disgorged, and finished with a cork and twine closure. Stylistically, you could say it's to Champagne what Lopez de Heredia is to white Rioja, but unlike 19thcentury Champagne, this modern revival is dry, with a very low dosage. It offers a stunning array of complex earthy and nutty aromas and flavors with biscuit, mineral, mushroom, and honey accents. The texture is luxuriously rich and layered, but naturally high acidity and the low dosage keep this Champagne fresh and invigorating, with a dry, crisp finish that goes on and on. If you like white wines from the Jura, traditional white Rioja, or are a Champagne fiend looking for something to blow your mind, here you go. Highly recommended.

In late January this year, I brought this Champagne with me to dinner at a well-known restaurant in Napa. I was stunned at the way it revealed layer upon layer of complexity throughout the evening, complementing each course from start to finish in different yet profound ways. It is hard to imagine having the patience to allow a Champagne to last through multiple courses, but this one has so much substance and depth that every sip is a new experience worth savoring for as long as possible. The standout pairing was the duck liver mousse course, but this Champagne held its own with both lamb and steak entrees as well!

As if that isn't praise enough, it is worth mentioning that this Champagne was also K&L Senior Bordeaux Specialist (and HUGE Giants fan) Ralph Sands' choice for toasting when the Giants won the World Series. Now that says something. 

The Challenge

This past Tuesday, the Redwood City managers generously offered to man the store and phones while the rest of the staff members enjoyed a prolonged, catered lunch together. Lawn (well, parking lot) games like ping pong were set up, hip-hop was blasting on the stereo, delicious food was abundant, and so were the wines, which is why when I learned that a ten wine blind tasting had been organized with a prize going to the winner, my first reaction was to mentally decline. Blind tasting is hard! It requires a lot of focus and can be intensely frustrating. Enjoying my ice cream doused with caramel after a huge lunch, I figured my palate was not in the best condition for such a challenge. The potential for embarrassment was high.  

My curiosity got the better of me, however, and eventually I wandered over to the tasting table. There were ten wines, brown bagged; eight in 750ml bottles and two in large format. The tasting sheet demanded five sets of criteria per wine: Vintage, Varietal Composition, Country, Region, and Producer. The rules were simple--No Peeking!--and one point would be awarded per correct answer for each criteria, leading to a total of five points per wine.

My strategy in casual blind tasting is to run through the lineup first, jotting down very short notes on aroma and flavor, but making no conclusions. Then I go through and consider each wine again, with the intention of making a swift decision with minimal mind-changing based on a combination of first and second impressions. I am a big believer in going with the gut; over-thinking a wine has only pushed me farther from accuracy in past tastings.

It was a doozy! In this case 'winning' meant a total of 19 points out of a possible 50 - nowhere near a perfect score (technically an F!) but a respectable effort nonetheless, considering the challenge we were up against. I will spare you the details of the tasting and my notes (including those parts that I got embarrassingly wrong) but in case you are curious, here is the 'answer' key to the challenge:  

Wine #1

Vintage: NV

Varietal: Pinot Meunier   

Country: France

Region: Champagne

Producer: Loriot

 

Wine #2

Vintage: 2009

Varietal: Gruner Veltliner

Country: Austria

Region: Kamptal

Producer: Allram

 

Wine #3

Vintage: 2011

Varietal: Grenache Blanc/Roussanne/Viognier

Country: France

Region: Costiere de Nimes

Producer: Gassier

 

Wine #4

Vintage: 2009

Varietal: Barbera

Country: Italy

Region: Asti

Producer: Chiarlo

 

Wine #5

Vintage: 1998

Varietal: 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc

Country: France

Region: Bordeaux

Producer: Grandis

 

 

Wine #6

Vintage: 2007

Varietal: Graciano

Country: Spain

Region: Rioja

Producer: Vina Ijalba

 

Wine #7

Vintage: 2001

Varietal: Cabernet

Country: US

Region: Yountville/Napa

Producer: Grgich Hills

 

Wine #8

Vintage: 2005

Varietal: CS

Country: US

Region: Napa/Rutherford

Producer: Nickel & Nickel

 

Wine #9

Vintage: 1971 Mouton Cadet

Varietal: Merlot/Cab

Country: France    

Region: Bordeaux

Producer: Mouton Cadet

 

Wine #10

Vintage: 1972

Varietal:Cabernet Sauv

Country: US

Region: Napa Valley

Producer: Inglenook

 

The next challenge? Choosing the perfect occasion in which to open this gorgeous Champagne!

When will I open this? What will I pair it with? Who do I invite to share it with me? So many things to consider...

I would like to thank Champagne Buyer Gary Westby for donating this bottle for the prize, and our fearless managers for organizing a great event and tasting. Your efforts are appreciated!

A toast to you,

Chiara

 

Friday
Apr052013

Champagne Friday: Reporting from Champagne! The First Day at Aspasie

By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer

The first day in Champagne at Champagne Aspasie

I am very lucky on this trip to have my father Jim with me. He and I left for France on Easter Sunday and arrived on Monday, which--no surprise--is a holiday in France! Our friends the Aristons of Champagne Aspasie invited us to visit them and stay for dinner, so as soon as we got off the plane we drove straight there.

Paul-Vincent Ariston had arranged a tasting of the base wines from the 2012 harvest for us, and we had a chance to learn the crazy story of this unique season in Champagne. This vintage had every challenge that a vigneron could face: freezing temperatures in the winter (as low as -20 centigrade) killed vines, spring frosts followed destroying many of the fresh buds, cold and rain during the flowering stunted grape growth, and horrible weather in July produced so much mud that it was often impossible to get into the vineyard to treat the vines against mildew. All of this lead to drastically lower yields, but miraculously the weather turned around in August and the grapes came out perfectly ripe, with plenty of acidity, but very scarce. Aspasie harvested more than 1/3 less in 2012 than average.

The base wines from Aspasie, as well as the other producers we have visited have been some of the best I have had. They are concentrated and quite full bodied, but have immense freshness and transparency. After tasting with Paul, we went to the winery were he moved more than 20 full palettes of Champagne to get our prize- a bottle of his 1983, which he disgorged manually, on the spot for us to enjoy. You can watch him doing it in today's video.

Try the Ariston "Aspasie Brut Prestige" Champagne ($39.99, $84.99 1.5L) with the fresh asparagus of the season!

Paul’s father Remy made this bottle, as Paul was only 11 years old! It was a sunny year with lots of grapes, and Remy Ariston worked day and night to load the press. It was still super fresh at 30 years old, and full of honeyed bread aroma and flavor. The wine had no sugar added to it as it was disgorged on the spot, and didn’t need any. We had it with Marie-France Ariston’s incredible white Asparagus with homemade mayonnaise… I was over the moon for it all.

We just received a new shipment from Aspasie, and with Asparagus season in full swing, I suggest you try this pairing your self with the Aspasie Brut Prestige ($39.99, $84.99 1.5L). This old vine blend is rich without being at all sweet, and I am sure you will love it!

A toast to you!

-Gary

Wednesday
Apr032013

Celebrate Mike Grgich's 90th Birthday with 2 Special Tastings at K&L in April!

Miljenko “Mike” Grgich celebrates 90th birthday this April. A native of Croatia, Mike arrived in Napa 1958 and worked at Souverain, Christian Brothers, Beaulieu Vineyards, Robert Mondavi Winery, and Chateau Montelena, where he crafted the Chardonnay that triumphed in the 1976 Paris Tasting, before founding Grgich Hills in 1977 in Rutherford.

Happy 90th Birthday Mike!

Mike Grgich, winemaker and founder of the famous Grgich Hills Estate, turned 90 years old on April 1st of this year. It was Mike Grgich, then winemaker for Chateau Montelena, who crafted the 1973 Chardonnay that 'beat' the French competition in the historic Paris Tasting of 1976. To celebrate this milestone birthday, K&L is hosting two special Grgich Hills Estate tastings in April in our Northern California stores. We invite you to join the party! Current releases of Grgich Hills' Chardonnay, Fume Blanc, Zinfandel, and Cabernet Sauvignon among other wines will be featured at both events. Come and raise a glass to one of Napa's great winemaking legends.

Thursday April 18th (5pm-6pm): Special Grgich Hills Tasting at K&L Redwood City ($5) rsvp on facebook 

Friday April 19th (5pm-6pm): Special Grgich Hills Tasting at K&L San Francisco ($5) rsvp on facebook 

 

For additional information on this event and other upcoming special events and tastings taking place at any of our locations, visit K&L Local Events on KLWines.com.

More About Mike, from Grgich Hills Estate

Mike's life sounds like a Hollywood movie, journeying from a peasant upbringing in communist Yugoslavia, to winemaker winning the Paris Tasting, and then becoming a winery owner in the Napa Valley. Mike arrived in the Napa Valley in 1958 after a four year journey from Croatia and worked for some of Napa's iconic wineries: Souverain, Christian Brothers, Beaulieu Vineyards and Robert Mondavi Winery, before becoming winemaker at Chateau Montelena. At Montelena, he crafted the Chardonnay that beat the best white wines in France in the now-famous 1976 Paris Tasting, helping to shatter the myth that only French soil could produce the world’s greatest wines and drawing international attention to Napa Valley wines.

Judges deliberating during the Paris Tasting of 1976. Image courtesy of Grgich Hills Estate.

On Independence Day 1977, Mike and Austin Hills broke ground in Rutherford to build Grgich Hills Cellar. Since starting Grgich Hills, Mike has continued receiving international awards for his wines and has been recognized for being a leader in sustainable vineyard practices.  Mike celebrated his 50th year of making wine in 2008, the same year he was inducted into the Vintners Hall of Fame. Today, all of Grgich Hills’ 366 acres are certified organic and the winery has converted to solar power and is completely estate grown.  

Check out the 2009 Grgich Hills "Estate" Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($49.99) and other Grgich Hills Estate wines in stock now at K&L.His influence has been so far-reaching that his famous beret, the suit case he carried to America, and a bottle of the 1973 Chardonnay that won the Paris Tasting are on display in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History’s first major exhibition on food history—“FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950–2000”.  In addition, a Croatian TV documentary about his life, “Like the Old Vine,” premiered at the Napa Valley Film Festival in November 2012.

Visit www.grgich.comto see all of the winery's events, including a special Gala on April 13th, and the inaugural release of the Paris Tasting Chardonnay, crafted by Mike Grgich in the same style as the Chardonnay that won the 1976 Paris Tasting. Given Mike’s proven track record of creating elegant wines that improve with age, this Chardonnay is sure to become a collectable. The winery will launch a birthday cake decorating contest with the chance to win a trip to Napa Valley and celebrate Mike’s 90 years of accomplishments with the famed winemaker.

Grgich Hills Estate, located in Rutherford, CA, was founded in 1977 by Vintner Hall of Fame inductee Miljenko “Mike” Grgich and Austin Hills after Mike’s Chardonnay outscored the best of France in the now-famous 1976 Paris Tasting.

Today, this iconic winery farms 366 acres naturally, without artificial pesticides or herbicides, and uses its passion and art to handcraft food-friendly, balanced and elegant wines. Mike is assisted by his daughter, Violet Grgich, Vice President of Operations, and his nephew, Ivo Jeramaz, Vice President of Vineyards and Production. For more information, visit www.grgich.com.